Asked by a nurse for his pick to win the NCAA Tournament, Jerry Tarkanian was quick to answer, "Kentucky."
Not long after suffering a mild heart attack around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Tarkanian, 81, was alert and joking while recovering in intensive care at MountainView Hospital.
The former UNLV basketball coach was expected to be hospitalized overnight, according to his daughter Jodie Diamant.
"It was a mild heart attack," son Danny Tarkanian said. "He said he feels pretty good, but he was scared."
Diamant was with Jerry Tarkanian when he started to wheeze during a doctor's visit and was taken to MountainView for precautionary reasons. After an EKG test, Tarkanian was told he was having a mild heart attack. He was experiencing no chest pains or other symptoms.
Although he has been dealing with bronchitis, Tarkanian was not in distress from heart complications, and doctors indicated surgery was unlikely, Diamant said.
Tarkanian, who compiled a 509-105 record at UNLV from 1973 to 1992 and guided the Rebels to the 1990 NCAA championship, has remained close to the program, especially while two of his former players lead the coaching staff.
Dave Rice was hired as head coach in April and lured Stacey Augmon back as an assistant. Rice and Augmon were teammates on the 1990 title team and 1991 Final Four team.
A variety of health issues has sapped some of Tarkanian's energy recently, but he occasionally visited UNLV's practices late in the season and sat behind a basket at the Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 8, 9 and 10.
Danny Tarkanian, a point guard for the Rebels from 1981 to 1984, said his dad has been feeling drained but was resting comfortably Tuesday night.
"He was very alert, and he sounded good. Hopefully he's going to be OK for a while," Danny Tarkanian said. "As a family, we feel pretty relieved at this point."
Jerry Tarkanian has a history of heart problems, but he also was hospitalized for other reasons in recent years.
In July 2009, with increasing pain in his legs hindering his ability to walk, Tarkanian needed a spinal operation at Scripps Memorial Hospital near San Diego. A large bone spur that was compressing his spinal cord was removed.
Tarkanian lives in Las Vegas most of the year but spends summers in San Diego and frequents horse races at Del Mar.
Also in 2009, Tarkanian fell twice at his condominium in Pacific Beach and suffered injuries. He cracked two ribs after slipping in a Jacuzzi and later took a harder fall in the house and fractured a shoulder.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.